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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 08-20-2008, 11:12 AM Thread Starter
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Exclusive - Niki Lauda weighs up the title contenders

Exclusive - Niki Lauda weighs up the title contenders

Three-time world champion Niki Lauda has always been an outspoken observer when it comes to analyzing Formula One title fights. But at the moment, so close is the competition that even Lauda is baffled as to which driver really has the edge.

But from the tenor of the Austrian’s answers one thing becomes quite obvious: Kimi Raikkonen’s inconsistency means Lauda sees Felipe Massa as Ferrari’s best title hope - assuming he can beat McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton…

Q: All indications point to a repeat of last year’s duel for the Formula One crown between Ferrari and McLaren. Who has the advantage - and why?
Niki Lauda: At the moment both teams are even, especially as their drivers do sometimes make mistakes, although Massa was doing a perfect job in Budapest, but this did not help him because of his car’s engine failure.

Q: Three men - Hamilton, Raikkonen and Massa - are the leading contenders for the drivers’ title. Who has the edge?
NL: Up until now it has been Massa and Hamilton, because Raikkonen’s performance has been going up and down all the time. Kovalainen did a good job in winning the Hungarian Grand Prix, his first race win, but he was very lucky.

Q: How will Ferrari manage their drivers, given that both have a shot at the title? When will they start leaning towards one driver and who will it be?
NL: This will be automatically resolved at some point, but for the moment Massa has the edge over Raikkonen from the driver’s point of view.

Q: Surely as reigning champion Raikkonen must be considered at least a wild card for the title?
NL: At the moment, clearly not.

Q: Turning to team principals, it’s McLaren’s Ron Dennis versus Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali - the old timer against the new kid on the block. Who is doing the better job?
NL: This is very hard to say, as both seem to be even. Ultimately the result at the end of the season will show who has done a better job.

Q: Earlier in the year BMW Sauber were looking like serious championship contenders, but things seem to have gone backwards in the last couple of races. Was it a case of too much too soon?
NL: No. They did a fantastic job coming out of nowhere to where they are now. But when you look at Hungary, you have to clearly say that for the moment Toyota have passed them.

Q: So are Toyota finally on the road to success?
NL: In Budapest they did a fantastic job, although you have to say that the circuit helped them a lot. Now we have to wait and see what they are able to do with this experience.

Q: Red Bull Racing are currently the leading independent team. Is the ‘Adrian Newey effect’ finally working?
NL: In my eyes, yes. They have improved the car so much, to be amongst the top ten in qualifying.

Q: What about Williams? They had a good start to the season, but seemed to run out of puff halfway through…
NL: As far as I can see, the team seems to have been going in the wrong direction in terms of development, so they have to solve some problems and then take it from there.

Q: Are you surprised that their rookie Kazuki Nakajima has proved a match for the much-lauded Nico Rosberg?
NL: It is too hard to give a judgment on the drivers because the car’s performance is not good enough to make a clear decision.

Q: Ross Brawn and Honda: will that develop into a success story? Is he the right medicine for the ailing patient?
NL: Ross is definitely the right medicine, but we have to wait until his changes take effect. And how long this will take, I cannot answer.

Q: Fernando Alonso: a double world champion, yet his rookie team mate has scored Renault’s only podium. And there’s no sign of a competitive drive for 2009. Did he make the wrong decision?
NL: It was obvious that Renault would not be as competitive as McLaren and Ferrari this year. Alonso himself took the decision to go there, so it is up to him - together with the team - to work as hard as possible to make the car competitive. For Piquet it was very important to have such a result, because he was very weak at the beginning of the season. With his first podium finish he should have gained the confidence to hopefully earn some more points throughout the rest of this season.

Q: Who for you is currently the best driver on the grid?
NL: Well, this is very difficult to say, as the driver is always connected to his car’s performance. You have to look at the two combined. For me, in Budapest it was certainly Massa, but two races before that it was Hamilton.

Q: And finally, who has been the best rookie?
NL: Timo Glock.
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 08-20-2008, 04:27 PM
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From 'official' F1 website?

Niki Lauda has always spoken his mind. I am surprised he has not locked into a particular driver yet for the championship....I've always felt he was not very complimentary of Kimi in the past, that does not look to have changed!

Two more days...!

Barry Mattingly

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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 08-22-2008, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by dbarrym View Post
From 'official' F1 website?

Niki Lauda has always spoken his mind. I am surprised he has not locked into a particular driver yet for the championship....I've always felt he was not very complimentary of Kimi in the past, that does not look to have changed!

Two more days...!
The consensus seems to be:

Hill: Raikkonen is just 'plodding along'.
Thu 21 Aug, 12:37 PM

Reigning F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen is just 'plodding along' in 2008, argues Britain's last title-winner Damon Hill - but due to others' mistakes and misfortunes, he is still well in the fight.

Damon Hill has hit out at Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, accusing the reigning Formula 1 World Champion of merely 'plodding along' in the battle for 2008 title glory.

Though he previously tipped the Finn to successfully defend his hard-fought crown of 2007 [see separate story - click here], Britain's last F1 World Champion has criticised Raikkonen's lacklustre performances of late - with no victory now in a staggering eight races - and branded him the least impressive of the four championship contenders, even if he reflected that the 28-year-old's recent slump proves that he is fallible and not the ice-cool automaton some describe him as.

"Raikkonen seems to have been plodding along," the 47-year-old told British newspaper The Sun, "although there he is near the top of the table again.

"He has oodles of natural ability, but sometimes it looks like he is not completely 100 per cent committed. If I was a team owner and paying a lot for a driver, I'd want to know that the guy is giving the best he can.

"That's the good thing about this sport. The drivers are not robots; they are human beings, and it's down to them to tackle any given situation how they want."

Hill had warmer words, however, for Raikkonen's team-mate at Maranello, Felipe Massa - "He is on or off, but when he's on he's bloody good" - and admitted that were he to have his time in the top flight again, there is only one team for which he would wish to drive.

"Ferrari - just because it's Ferrari," the British Racing Drivers' Club President responded in a flash. "They really do have that mystique that other teams don't have.

"I didn't feel that way during my career, though, because at that time they were absolutely useless! I was happy to drive whatever was the best car, and I was happy it was a Williams."

On that subject, the 22-time grand prix winner acknowledged that he was 'very disappointed' to have witnessed the multiple championship-winning Grove-based outfit's seemingly relentless slide down the F1 grid in recent campaigns - with just 16 points on the board thus far in 2008, compared to 175 back when Hill lifted the laurels twelve years earlier

"Obviously I have a soft spot for them and they are having a hard time" he confessed. "It's very hard to stay at the top forever, and they are not aligned to a major manufacturer.

"This is something that is a fact of life in F1 now. With the resources you need, only major manufacturers can afford to keep pumping money in at that level."
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